President Nixon’s resignation in 1974 was the first time for a U.S. president. That same year, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein released their book that went into detail how they broke the Watergate scandal wide open with articles that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. Let’s learn more about what happened as we compare history with the 1976 film based on and named after the book.
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- The Watergate Story – The Washington Post
- 1: 5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats’ Office Here
- 2: GOP Security Aide Among Five Arrested in Bugging Affair – The Washington Post
- 3: Bug Suspect Got Campaign Funds – The Washington Post
- 4: Mitchell Controlled Secret GOP Fund – The Washington Post
- 5: FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats – The Washington Post
- 6: Nixon Wins Landslide Victory; Democrats Hold Senate, House – The Washington Post
- 7: Last Two Guilty in Watergate Plot – The Washington Post
- 8: 3 Top Nixon Aides, Kleindienst Out; President Accepts Full Responsibility; Richardson Will Conduct New Probe – The Washington Post
- 9: Cox Is Chosen as Special Prosecutor – The Washington Post
- 10: The First Day of Watergate: Not Exactly High Drama – The Washington Post
- 11: Dean Alleges Nixon Knew of Cover-up Plan – The Washington Post
- 12: Break-In Memo Sent to Ehrlichman – The Washington Post
- 13: President Taped Talks, Phone Calls; Lawyer Ties Ehrlichman to Payments – The Washington Post
- 14: President Refuses to Turn Over Tapes; Ervin Committee, Cox Issue Subpoenas – The Washington Post
- 15: Nixon Forces Firing of Cox; Richardson, Ruckelshaus Quit: President Abolishes Prosecutor’s Office; FBI Seals Records – The Washington Post
- 16: Nixon Tells Editors, ‘I’m Not a Crook’ – The Washington Post
- 17: Another Tape Found Faulty, Sirica Is Told; Haldeman, Nixon Talk Is Involved – The Washington Post
- 18: President Hands Over Transcripts – The Washington Post
- 19: Court Orders Nixon to Yield Tapes; President Promises to Comply Fully – The Washington Post
- 20: Nixon Resigns – The Washington Post
- DNC’s Stanley Greigg Dies; Signed Watergate Complaint – The Washington Post
- Second Trial Opens In Watergate Case – The Washington Post
- Watergate Papers Sold For $5 Million – The Washington Post
- Chesterfield Smith; ABA Head During Watergate – The Washington Post
- John J. Rhodes Dies; Led GOP In House During Watergate – The Washington Post
- Nixon Data May Be Calif.-Bound: Sponsors Vow Continued Public Access to Tapes, Papers – The Washington Post
- Still Bugged By Nixon: Archives Releases More Watergate Tapes – The Washington Post
- Helen M. Smith Dies; Aide to Pat Nixon – The Washington Post
- Haig Said Nixon Joked of Nuking Hill: Transcripts of Phone Talks Are Released by Archives – The Washington Post
- Watergate Prosecutor Faced Down the President – The Washington Post
- Watergate Committee Chief Counsel Samuel Dash Dies – The Washington Post
- Watergate ‘Bagman’ Fred LaRue, 75, Dies – The Washington Post
- Rose Mary Woods Dies; Loyal Nixon Secretary – The Washington Post
- Watergate Papers Go Public: University of Texas to Unveil Woodward-Bernstein Collection – The Washington Post
- James Bierbower; Lawyer in High-Profile Cases – The Washington Post
- Federal Judge Robert R. Merhige Dies – The Washington Post
- FBI’s No. 2 Was ‘Deep Throat’: Mark Felt Ends 30-Year Mystery of The Post’s Watergate Source – The Washington Post
- Watergate-Era FBI Chief L. Patrick Gray III Dies at 88 – The Washington Post
- Martin F. Dardis, 83; Investigator Linked Watergate Crime to Nixon – The Washington Post
- Robert Mardian; Attorney Caught Up in Watergate Scandal – The Washington Post
- Ex-Spy Crafted Watergate, Other Schemes – The Washington Post
- Nixon Aide DeVan L. Shumway, 77
- All the President’s Men (1976) – Plot Summary – IMDb
- All the President’s Men: Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein: 9781476770512: Amazon.com: Books
- All the President’s Men (film) – Wikipedia
- All the President’s Men (1976) – Full Cast & Crew – IMDb
- Watergate Chronology
- The Watergate Scandal – HISTORY
- The Time Has Come To Talk About ‘All The President’s Men’
- Watergate: The Scandal That Brought Down Richard Nixon
- Watergate scandal | Summary, Timeline, & Deep Throat | Britannica.com
- The Watergate | Scandal Room | Hotel Room in DC
- 13 Investigative Facts About ‘All the President’s Men’ | Mental Floss
- All the President’s Men: An Oral History | Washingtonian
- Differences | All the President’s Men
- ‘All the President’s Men Revisited’: A mediacentric rehash, with some insight | Media Myth Alert
- What Director Alan Pakula’s Papers Reveal About Watergate
- Differences between All the President’s Men Book vs Movie Page 1
- A Look Back at the Senate Watergate Hearings – YouTube
- Alexander P. Butterfield Testifies During the Watergate Hearings – YouTube
- Timeline: Watergate Scandal | Fox News
- This security guard discovered the Watergate break-in, but nobody remembers him – The Washington Post
- ‘The Post’ and Frank Wills: the security guard who discovered the 1972 Watergate break-in – The Washington Post
- Nixon fired the man investigating him. Will Trump? – The Washington Post
- Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought – The Washington Post
- How Mark Felt Became ‘Deep Throat’ – The Washington Post
- GOP Security Aide Among Five Arrested in Bugging Affair – The Washington Post
- Bug Suspect Got Campaign Funds – The Washington Post
- Mitchell Controlled Secret GOP Fund – The Washington Post
- FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats – The Washington Post
- Still Secret – Who Hired Spies and Why – The Washington Post
- Dean Alleges Nixon Knew of Cover-up Plan – The Washington Post
- Break-In Memo Sent to Ehrlichman – The Washington Post
- Nixon Debated Paying Blackmail, Clemency: ‘Keep Cap on Bottle’ – The Washington Post
- Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought – The Washington Post
- Watergate Burglars
- Did Mark Felt even know he was Deep Throat?
- The Watergate Story | Deep Throat Revealed – The Washington Post
- Watergate scandal: The women who helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein topple Nixon | Daily Mail Online
- Watergate: All The President’s Men, But Women Too : NPR
- Federal Election Campaign Act – Wikipedia
- MAGRUDER ENTERS A PLEA OF GUILTY – The New York Times
- January 10, 1973 – Mr. Hunt Pleads Guilty – Watergate resurfaces.
- SEGRETTI IS GIVEN A SIX‐MONTH TERM – The New York Times
- Segretti, in U.S. Prison 4 Months, Is Released – The New York Times
- KALMBACH PLEADS GUILTY TO 2 CAMPAIGN CHARGES; MAY BE JAWORSKI WITNESS – The New York Times
- Daily News – Google News Archive Search
- Attorney General: Richard Gordon Kleindienst | AG | Department of Justice
- COLSON PLEADS GUILTY TO CHARGE IN ELLSBERG CASE AND IS EXPECTED TO AID JAWORSKI AND RODINO PANEL – The New York Times
- Stans Pleads Guilty to Five Violations Of Election Laws in Campaign of 1972 – The New York Times
- 1973 Watergate Hearings; 1973-06-13; Part 1 of 3 – American Archive of Public Broadcasting
- washingtonpost.com – watergate scandal and deep throat update, maurice stans
- Watergate and the Two Lives of Mark Felt: Roles as FBI Official, ‘Deep Throat’ Clashed – The Washington Post
- The Watergate Story | Nixon Resigns – The Washington Post
- Listen to Nixon Resigns | HISTORY
Disclaimer: Dan LeFebvre and/or Based on a True Story may earn commissions from qualifying purchases through our links on this page.
Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
There’s a typewriter typing out the date. June 1st, 1972. Then, we see some archival footage. It’s Marine One, and long-time TV broadcaster Walter Cronkite explains that President Nixon is landing on the east side of the Capitol. Then, he heads inside to talk to members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the diplomatic corps of Washington waiting inside.
Then, soon after President Nixon smiles, nods and says, “thank you” to the applauding lawmakers, the camera cuts.
The new scene is a dark building. We don’t know how much time has passed, but we see someone opening a door. It’s dark inside, but it’s also dark outside. It must be night time. The men — we can see they’re men — are carrying flashlights. They’re not turning on the lights, so we get the sense they probably shouldn’t be there.
It’s dark. Quiet. The scene changes, and we see a single person walking down a ramp in what must be the garage beneath the building. Then we can see who it is. It’s a security guard.
He notices something awry…there’s a door with tape on it. The tape is keeping the door from locking, meaning the door can be pushed open easily.
Huh, that’s odd.
Peeling the tape off the door, we see the mechanism pop back into place.
The movie never mentions this, but that security guard’s name was Frank Wills. It was at about 12:30 AM on June 17th, 1972 when Frank noticed tape on a door leading to a stairwell at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC.
He didn’t think much of it. In fact, the 24-year-old Frank thought it was a maintenance crew who had put the tape there for a matter of convenience. He ripped off the tape, so the door could lock again, and then he took his scheduled break.
About an hour later, Frank returned to the door and noticed something strange. The tape was back. Well, that’s not normal. Frank called it in, suggesting perhaps there was a burglary in progress. In his log, which is now kept at the National Archives, Frank wrote: “1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police to make [an] inspection another inspection.”
There’s no way he could’ve known in that moment that he had just discovered a thread in what would become one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.
Back in the movie, after seeing Frank peeling off the tape, we see a car driving down the road. Inside are three plainclothes police officers. Over the radio, the dispatcher asks them to check in with the security guard at the Watergate office building complex about a possible burglary.
“Are you sure you want us?” One of the officers confirms. “We’re not in uniform.”
“You take it,” comes the reply.
So, the plainclothes officers arrive at the Watergate and make their way inside. Meanwhile, the men we saw earlier are wearing gloves and doing something in one of the rooms. They’re alerted to the presence of activity from someone standing watch in the building across the way.
After getting the warning, they turn off the walkie-talkie in an attempt to stay quiet. Lifting his walkie-talkie again, the man across from the Watergate calls out a warning.
“Base 1 to Unit 1, lights on the 8th floor.”
Then a pause.
“Is there anybody there?”
They don’t hear it. Suddenly, there’s a flurry of activity in the Watergate.
Scurrying to pick up their stuff, the men run off to hide.
That’s short-lived, though, when the police officers soon find the men. Five men, all wearing gloves and immediately surrendering to the officers upon their discovery.
All of that is fairly accurate to what really happened.
There were five men who broke into the Watergate hotel on June 17th, 1972. Responding to Frank’s call were three plainclothes officers who had been looking for drug deals. They just happened to be in the area.
Looking back through history, some have speculated this may be why the burglars were caught off-guard. This is something that’s a little different than the movie shows. You see, in the movie, we see the guy across the street who was keeping an eye on things. He’s a man by the name of Alfred Baldwin, and in the movie, we can see him watching as the unmarked police car arrives and the plainclothes officers get out, and immediately warning his colleagues in the Watergate.
That’s not really what happened. It’d seem Baldwin got a little distracted by the TV in his room and apparently didn’t notice the unmarked police car pulling up or the plainclothes police officers getting out.
Around 2:30 AM, they entered the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters on the sixth floor and found them ransacked. So, I guess that’d be one difference between the movie and history since we saw the men leaving a rather tidy room before hiding.
It was about this time that Alfred noticed the unusual activity and called on the walkie-talkies to warn his colleagues. But it was too late for them. The five men responsible were caught red-handed.
There were 29 offices used by the Democratic National Committee, so it’s not like it was a single room. But as a little side note, today, you can stay in room 214 at the Watergate — one of the two rooms that the five men rented to get into the Watergate. The room is decorated in ‘70s style with framed photos of Nixon and newspapers from the event all over the walls. There’s even a movie poster of All the President’s Men!
Back in the movie’s timeline, we’re in the offices of The Washington Post with Harry Rosenfeld and Howard Simons.
Oh, and Harry is played by Jack Warden while Howard is played by Martin Balsam.
The two are talking about the burglary, and one of them mentions it’s clear they were trying to bug the place. What’s strange, though, is the amount of cash they had on them. $814 for one of the guys. Another had $230, $215 for another and $234 for yet another — most of it being in $100 bills in sequential order.
Well, that is odd.
Harry calls up Bob Woodward, who is played by Robert Redford, and asks him to go find out more about the burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters.
Again, that’s a pretty accurate interpretation of what happened.
That’s all true.
Collectively, the men had about $2,300 in cash. For a little bit of context, carrying $2,300 in cash in 1972 would be like carrying about $13,700 in cash today. That’s certainly not normal to begin with.
Then you add on the fact that most of the cash was in $100 bills, like the movie said. And the serial numbers were in sequential order. And they also had 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35mm cameras, three tear gas guns that were about the size of a pen, various lock-picks and door jimmies along with a short-wave receiver capable of picking up police calls.
And to top it off, they were all wearing business suits and rubber gloves.
It’s clear they were there with a purpose. A well-funded purpose, no less.
In the movie, we’re following Robert Redford’s character, Bob Woodward, as he tries to find out who’s defending the burglars. At first, he finds out two public defenders are appointed to their case.
Then, he finds out that’s not the case. The five men already have lawyers. That’s odd — if anyone had known that, they wouldn’t have had the public defenders appointed.
Bob Woodward finds a man named Markham in the courtroom. He’s a lawyer but, according to Markham, he’s not there as a lawyer — he’s just an acquaintance of one of the defendants. Markham, who’s played by Nicolas Coster, tells Woodward that the lawyer for the five men is a man named Mr. Starkey.
This is one of those times in a movie when you know simply by the casting how important a character is. I say that because there is no “Mr. Starkey” cast in the movie, only the unremarkable character name of “Attorney #1” as played by John O’Leary.
But that’s alright because neither Mr. Starkey or Markham are real people. Douglas Caddy was the man that Markham is based on while the lawyer for the five men wasn’t a Mr. Starkey but instead a Mr. Joseph Rafferty, Jr.
Despite the name changes for the film, the odd behavior from Markham and evasiveness to Bob Woodward’s questions that we saw in the movie was pretty close to what really happened.
There is a brief conversation around this point in the movie where we see Woodward ask Markham why he’s there. If there were public defenders assigned to the five men, they clearly didn’t know they already had lawyers. And yet, the men didn’t call anyone. So, why are you here?
The movie doesn’t answer this question and lets it hang, adding to the conspiracy of it all. But, in truth, that was given an answer.
According to the real lawyer, Douglas Caddy, it was Bernard Barker’s wife who called the lawyers. According to the lawyer, Barker’s wife had contacted him because Barker told her if she didn’t hear from him by 3:00 AM that meant he might be in trouble.
So, that’s the explanation they gave. The question is whether you believe it. But, that’s for you to decide.
In the next scene of the movie, we see the five men entering the courtroom. When the Judge asks the men for their name and profession, one of the men says he’s Bernard Barker and his profession is an anti-communist. The Judge makes the remark that that’s not your average profession.
Then, moving onto the next man, James McCord tells the Judge he’s a security consultant.
“Where?” asks the Judge.
“The government. Uh, recently retired.”
“Where in the government?” the Judge probes.
The man gets a little timid now and says something that the Judge doesn’t believe. Neither does Woodward, as we see him straining from the seats in the courtroom to hear the man quietly addressing the Judge.
“Where?” the Judge asks again.
“Uh, the CIA.”
Woodward is shocked.
You, on the other hand, probably won’t be shocked by now to learn that is all a fairly accurate representation of what happened. Well, as much as can be expected from a movie, anyway.
The movie never mentions the Judge’s name, but he’s Superior Court Judge James A. Belson. Judge Belson retired from service in 2017.
The five men charged for breaking into the Watergate were James McCord, Bernard Barker, Virgil Gonzales, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis.
The movie says that four of the five men were Cuban, but in truth three of the five were.
They were men had who had fled when Fidel Castro took over, and there’s some who believe that at least one of them, Bernard Barker, was a part of the CIA’s invasion of Cuba. We know that now as the Bay of Pigs incident — if you want to learn a bit more about that, check out the Che! episode.
Although, to be fair, the investigation is just starting in the movie. And we get the number four of the five men from when Robert Redford’s character in the movie mentions that the men’s lawyer, Mr. Starkey, tells him. So, maybe it’s not that the movie got it wrong but rather that the lawyer purposely was trying to mislead the Post reporter.
Or … maybe that’s nitpicking a little, haha!
Oh, and while we’re at the details, the movie mentions Edward Martin being James McCord’s alias. But, according to the article covering the burglary from the Post, it was actually the other way around. He was also the only one from New York, with the other four being from Miami.
But for the sake of this episode, I’ll call him James McCord since that’s what the movie does.
We don’t see how the arraignment ends in the movie, but four of the five men had their bond set at $30,000, ordered to stay in the DC area and check in with the court every day.
McCord’s orders were different.
He had a $50,000 bond, and while he was also ordered to stay around DC, he only had to check in once a week with the court.
The movie doesn’t really touch on this, but it was here when The Washington Post published their first article on the Watergate burglary. With a title of, “5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats’ Office Here”, the article was published on Sunday, June 18th, 1972 with a byline from legendary police reporter Alfred E. Lewis. Although, there were eight people from the Post who helped out with the article.
The next major plot point back in the movie’s timeline happens when Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are putting together the pieces of the puzzle for the burglary. They get a tip from a policeman who lets Woodward know that a couple of the burglars had address books containing some names in them. One of the names is “Howard Hunt” and another says “WHouse.”
The White House? We see Woodward call the White House to see if there’s someone named Howard Hunt there. The woman on the other end of the line suggests they try Charles Colson’s office.
When Woodward finally gets ahold of Hunt, he tells him that Hunt’s name was in the address book of one of the burglars. We can hear the voice on the other end say, “Good God!”
That’s all true, even down to Hunt’s initial response to finding out his name was in the address book.
But, as you can imagine, Hunt wasn’t very helpful to the two reporters. Just like we saw in the movie, he hung up on them.
Still, all of this was enough for a story. They didn’t have to know how the overall story would end — they didn’t even know how big the story was yet — but it was a start.
Three days after the burglary, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward published the first article with only their two names on the byline. With the title of “GOP Security Aide Among Five Arrested in Bugging Affair”, it published on June 19th. It didn’t mentioned Hunt at all, though. Woodward and Bernstein wanted to make sure they could verify a few details about him before making his name public.
Instead, the article focused more on James McCord’s connection to the Republican National Committee. It was a loose connection … a contract he had to provide security services. They never said what those services were, but it was … as, I said, a loose connection at that point. And, as I’m sure you can guess, the GOP’s national chairman at the time, Bob Dole, denounced the burglary and immediately denied any connection to McCord’s bugging the Democratic National Committee.
Back in the movie, the two journalists keep following the lead on Hunt. They find out that Hunt was doing some research into Ted Kennedy. From one source to another, Bernstein calls up the White House librarian to find out if Hunt checked out any books on Chappaquiddick. The librarian is very helpful, and says that yes, she remembers that.
Placing him on hold, she goes to get more information.
When she comes back, her tone is different.
Hunt? I don’t remember anyone named Hunt. Sorry.
Well, that changed fast. Someone must’ve gotten to her, Bernstein concludes.
That’s all true, albeit with some slight changes for the sake of time. For example, the librarian didn’t put them on hold at first. She said she’d dig into it more, and when Bernstein called back a little later, she gave them the name of a book by author Jack Olsen called The Bridge at Chappaquiddick that Hunt had checked out.
It was on the second call that the librarian put Bernstein on hold and then came back with quite a different tone. After the call was done, Woodward called back to see if he could get more info from her. She refused, saying she shouldn’t have said anything to Bernstein.
The movie doesn’t mention what Chappaquiddick was, but this is referring to an incident that took place on the night of July 18th, 1969. Ted Kennedy, whose real name was Edward, was a relatively new Senator at that time, being elected for his first term in January of 1969. That night, Senator Kennedy was hosting a party for some women who helped with his brother’s presidential campaign the year before. He left the party with one of the girls, a woman named Mary Jo Kopechne.
As they were driving, he lost control of the car on a bridge near Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. The car crashed into the water below. Kennedy managed to make his way out of the car, but Kopechne did not. What made this more than a tragic accident was the fact that Senator Kennedy didn’t report the accident until the next morning, at which point the authorities had already found Mary Jo’s body in the water.
He claimed he dove back into the water numerous times to try to rescue her. But I guess we’ll just have to take his word for that. The outcome of the incident was that Senator Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of the accident, issued a public apology in which he said, “I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately,” and was given a suspended sentence of two months.
For the purposes of our story today, presumably, it’d be easy to jump to conclusions that Hunt was trying to dig up some dirt for the Republicans on the incident involving the popular Democratic Senator. To what end, exactly? Well, that’s what Woodward and Bernstein wanted to know.
Going back to the movie, our next scene happens when we see Woodward picks up a paper outside his apartment. Carrying it back inside, he sits down and starts flipping through it.
As a fun little bit of detail, in the background as Woodward looks at the paper we can hear the announcer on TV talking about how Bobby Fischer forfeited the second game of the World Champion Chess match against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland when he didn’t show up.
Even though that’s just background noise in the movie, that’s actually true, and it happened on July 13th, 1972 when Fischer protested the distraction of the TV cameras by not showing up to the match. You can learn more about all of that in the Based on a True Story episode where we cover the movie Pawn Sacrifice.
For our story today, though, this scene continues when Woodward notices a piece of paper fall out of the newspaper. The note tells Woodward to make contact with an anonymous source by putting a small, red flag in a flower pot on his apartment balcony. That meant Woodward wanted to meet with this anonymous source, and when he did that the meeting place would be a pre-arranged underground parking garage at 2:00 AM the next morning.
We see this happen in the movie, and the anonymous source who shows up is a man we later find out gets the nickname Deep Throat. He’s played by Hal Holbrook in the movie.
The overall gist of that is true, but it wasn’t Deep Throat who suggested the red flag in the pot. That was Woodward’s suggestion. And it’s worth pointing out that Woodward went to the lengths of taking no less than two different taxis to the parking garage, just in case someone was following him.
Oh, and not to get too far ahead of our story, but it wasn’t always a red flag in the pot like the movie shows. Throughout the years of the investigation, Woodward moved apartments. The first apartment was the red flag. The second apartment he lived in, the signal was turning over a wastebasket, so it was upside down on the fire escape. But, that apartment didn’t work too well because he had noisy neighbors. So, Woodward moved again, and the new system at the new apartment was simply to move the flower pot from one end of the balcony to the other.
As a bit of bonus information, the movie never mentions his name because, at the time of the movie’s release, Deep Throat’s identity had never been revealed. It wasn’t until decades later, on May 31st, 2005, that Deep Throat was uncovered. His real name is Mark Felt. He was appointed as the third-ranking official in the FBI by J. Edgar Hoover in 1971, behind Associate Director Clyde Tolson and Hoover himself.
But Tolson’s health was failing, so when Hoover died in 1972, it wasn’t Tolson who replaced him. Instead, Nixon appointed a man named L. Patrick Gray as the FBI director while Tolson resigned. Meanwhile, Felt rose to the number two position in the FBI. That’s how he knew so much.
If you’re a fan of conspiracy theories, there’s one here about Felt’s reasons for leaking information to the Post. While on the surface it seems like he did it for moral reasons to uncover illegal behavior going on within the government, some people don’t believe that. The thought there is that maybe he thought he was passed over by Gray and saw the Watergate scandal as a way of getting those above him out of the way so he could succeed them. Basically, showing the world that Gray couldn’t control the FBI and ousting him as Director. Of course, that’s never been proven. And since Felt passed away at the age of 90 in 2008, it’ll most likely continue to live in the realm of conspiracy theory for perpetuity.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where the cover name “Deep Throat” came from, well, it came from a porno. Probably not too surprising there. That was the name of the porno and it was Martin Balsam’s character in the movie, The Post’s managing editor Howard Simons, who started using the nickname for the anonymous source.
It’s probably worth pointing out that the source was never called Deep Throat in any of the original articles in The Post. So, that was only an internal name used for the source. But, because it was used internally, that’s what Bernstein and Woodward called the source in their 1974 book that the movie is based on. So, that’s when the name became public, and then it wasn’t, as we learned just a moment ago, until decades later that Deep Throat’s real name was revealed.
Back in the movie, Deep Throat’s suggestion to Woodward is to follow the money. The money that funded Watergate is the key to the whole thing, he says.
So, that’s what they do. But, as we see in the movie, a State Attorney in Miami has subpoenaed Bernard Barker’s phone and money records. Barker, like most of the other burglars, was from Miami.
Dustin Hoffman’s version of Carl Bernstein heads down to Miami to find out more information. After getting the runaround, he finally gets to look at the records. Inside there’s a check issued to a man named Kenneth H. Dahlberg in the amount of $25,000.
That’s a new name.
Making note of it, he calls Woodward back in DC. Woodward follows up on the lead and finds out Dahlberg is on the Committee to Re-Elect the President, or CRP.
He calls up Dahlberg to ask about the check. On the other end of the line, we can hear that Dahlberg doesn’t seem to know why the check ended up in Barker’s account. He says he doesn’t know what happened to it after he handed it to CRP’s finance chairman, Maurice Stans.
Another new name.
The basic gist of that is true.
The $25,000 check was for campaign contributions that Dahlberg collected as his role of finance chairman for the Midwest region. So, he was merely passing the money up the line in the campaign, as you would expect. Although, initially, he couldn’t recall if he handed the money to Stans directly or if he handed it to CRP’s treasurer, a man named Hugh Sloan.
All this information was published in The Washington Post on August 1st, 1972. That was over a month since the last Watergate article focused on the White House aide published in June.
By the way, if you want to read the original articles, I’ll make sure to add links to all the articles from The Washington Post on the page for this episode on basedonatruestorypodcast.com.
The August article in the Post was the first to mention the name of Howard Hunt, who we learned a bit about earlier, as someone known to a couple of the burglary suspects. But there were more developments uncovered. More specifically, the depositing of other funds into Bernard Barker’s account. A total of $114,000, with most of it deposited by a lawyer out of Mexico City.
That’s equivalent to almost $679,000 today.
But the large amounts of money weren’t really the focus of the investigation at this point. That focus was on the $25,000 check, which is about the same as $148,000 today. The reason it was so important was because it had Dahlberg’s name on it. That tied it to the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which was highly suspicious.
Why were funds from the CRP coming up in this trail from the burglars? The investigation continued.
Back in the movie, with the revelation of CRP’s personnel being involved, Woodward and Bernstein decide to start reaching out to people at CRP. Since it’s a public committee, they’re able to obtain a list of employees and start visiting them at their homes.
It doesn’t take long before they find things are a little … well, not normal.
We see one woman refuse to talk, and close to tears when she begs them to leave before they’re seen.
Wait — seen by who? Who is watching her home? And why?
As time goes by, we get the sense that frustration is starting to form at the Post because of an apparent wall. No one wants to talk to them.
Finally, they’re successful. The movie only casts her as “Bookkeeper”, but the character is played by Jane Alexander. In the movie we see Dustin Hoffman’s version of Carl Bernstein talk to the bookkeeper. Although, she doesn’t want to talk at first. Bernstein sort of has to sneak in as he first asks for a cigarette. Then, the bookkeeper’s sister asks if Bernstein wants some coffee. He says, “yes” of course — that’ll give him an excuse to come inside and hopefully get the bookkeeper to chat.
As it turns out, the bookkeeper is the most helpful person they’ve run into lately. She confirms she knows about the secret fund. But she’s not interested in blatantly giving the reporters names. Instead, she beats around the bush a bit and helps with initials — but no names. That way no one could ever say she gave up names.
That’s all true, but there is more to the story.
Sort of like Deep Throat, the bookkeeper’s name was kept secret throughout the investigation. It wasn’t until later that her name was revealed as Judy Hoback. As of this recording, Judy is still alive — although she’s married and known as Judy Miller now.
In an interview with NPR for the 40th anniversary of Watergate in 2012, Judy admitted to being, “pretty nervous and scared” when Carl Bernstein knocked on her door. But she fought through her fears. She knew she wanted to say something because, as Judy said in the interview, she “felt frustrated that I didn’t think the truth was coming out.”
As always, I’ll include a link to Judy’s interview on NPR over on basedonatruestorypodcast.com in case you want to hear it for yourself.
Bob Woodward would later say that when Carl found Judy — that was the turning point in the case.
Hopping back into the movie, we see Woodward and Bernstein visit the bookkeeper one more time. They get some more information, no full names given by her, but this is starting to develop into a story. Armed with some possible names of who might have access to, or even be controlling this secret fund, Woodward and Bernstein decide to go talk to Hugh Sloan. He’s played by Stephen Collins.
If you remember from when we briefly mentioned him before, Sloan was the treasurer for CRP. So, if anyone should know about the fund then it’d be him, right?
Like they did for the bookkeeper, they go to Sloan’s home to talk to him. There are some more key facts the movie shows them getting out of this information. There’s the sheer size of the secret fund, somewhere close to $1 million.
For some context, that’s almost $6 million today. Not the biggest budget when it comes to DC, but also not a small stash of cash by any means.
The other pieces of information we see in the movie here are some more names. Sloan helps them confirm something they found out from the bookkeeper, that CRP’s chairman, John Mitchell, was one of the men who controlled the fund.
The way the movie shows all of that is pretty accurate to what really happened.
I didn’t mention this earlier when Sloan’s name came up, but the real Woodward had tried to get in touch with Sloan.
Except, as the movie shows, he quit CRP. The reason Woodward was told at that time was that Sloan had quit for personal reasons. So, at that time, they went a different route. This time, they decided to give it a shot.
As it turns out, Sloan quit as a matter of conscious. He didn’t like what was going on at CRP.
On September 29th, 1972, The Washington Post published the story about the secret fund. The amount of money mentioned in the article was that the fund fluctuated between $350,000 and $700,000.
Today, that’s between $2 million and $4.1 million.
And just like the movie shows, when the reporters called up John Mitchell to tell him what they were going to publish about him controlling the fund, they gave him a chance to reply. His reply was quoted in the paper and the movie added that now-famous quote nearly verbatim:
“All that crap, you’re putting it in the paper? It’s all been denied. Jesus. Katie Graham is gonna get caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published. Good Christ. That’s the most sickening thing I’ve ever heard.”
I say it’s nearly verbatim because, as the movie also accurately shows, John Mitchell mentioned something that Post editor Ben Bradlee decided to omit, for good reason. I’m referring to the part where he says, “Katie Graham is gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer…” instead of how it was published, “Katie Graham is gonna get caught in a big fat wringer…”
For some context there, Katherine Graham was the big boss at The Washington Post as its publisher at the time.
The movie touches on this briefly, but there were a few reasons why this fund was such a big deal. For one, through the Post’s investigations, it was tied to a burglary and apparently wiretapping operation of the Democratic Party by the Republican Party.
Wiretapping was illegal.
But there’s another major reason the fund was a big deal. And that is simply that the fund itself was probably illegal. Of course, political parties can have money — they have a lot of it. But, they must report it to the GAO, or the Government Accountability Office.
Although it’s worth pointing out that at the time the GAO only said the fund was possibly illegal. The reason for that is somewhat ironic to the investigation. On February 7th of 1972, President Nixon signed the Federal Election Campaign Act into law. That went into effect a few months later on April 7th. One of the elements of that law was to require public reporting for political campaigns.
Basically, it’s illegal to keep a fund for an election campaign where the expenses aren’t a matter of public record. Which … is exactly what this secret fund that Nixon’s own re-election committee seemed to be tied to was doing.
And, according to the September article from the Post, CRP chairman John Mitchell was the only one controlling the funds at the start, with four more men being given control over it later. Since Mitchell was the first one to control this seemingly illegal fund that was used to do illegal things, that pointed the finger of blame squarely at him.
No wonder why he was so upset.
Going back into the movie, the investigation continues to unravel new names in the thread of deceit. We see it on screen as Carl Bernstein travels to L.A. to chat with a young lawyer named Donald Segretti. He’s played by Robert Walden in the film.
While Segretti admits to some morally questionable things, he doesn’t think they’re a big deal. He tells Bernstein he was hired to sabotage the Democrats as he was working for a man named Dwight Chapin.
Another name in the thread.
But then, after talking to Segretti, things get even more interesting when Woodward gets a tip that Dwight Chapin was hired by none other than the White House Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman. Since the money came from the secret fund, this tells Woodward that perhaps Haldeman was one of the men who, like Mitchell, had control of the fund.
The basic gist of that is true but as you can imagine there’s more to the story. Although, I should point out an important clarification. What I mean by saying it’s true is that the clues unfolding this way was true — not necessarily that the conclusions that Woodward and Bernstein were coming to from the clues was true.
After all, the investigation wasn’t done yet.
Finding Donald Segretti in real life was a little more difficult than the movie made it seem. That included leaving a message with Segretti’s mom to have him call and hiring a freelance reporter the Post had used for previous stories to help track Segretti down. It was the freelancer who made first contact with Segretti.
That freelancer reporter’s name was Robert Meyers, and it was Meyers who was in Los Angeles on the ground trying to get face-to-face with Segretti. After a few days of staking out, Meyers managed to do exactly that.
This is different than the movie makes it seem because it means Meyers was the first to chat with Segretti face-to-face. When he chatted with Segretti, not much came of it, but he called back to Bernstein and Woodward at the Post to let them know what happened.
As chance would have it, Bernstein had just gotten off the phone with someone from the Justice Department. In passing, Bernstein had mentioned Segretti’s name, and the unnamed Justice Department official declined to comment because it was involved in the investigation.
Wait — that means Segretti’s part of the investigation, too? Up until this point, the two reporters thought they were the only ones looking for Segretti. That made things more interesting.
This was all published in the Post on October 10th, 1972 in an article entitled, “FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats.” As always, I’ll add that link in the resources for this episode if you want to read it.
Then, about a month later, on November 7th, 1972, President Nixon was re-elected to his second term. It was a landslide with over 60% of the popular vote. There was no mention of Watergate in the Post’s article covering the re-election.
Soon after Nixon’s re-election, Bernstein went to L.A. to talk to Segretti. So, while the movie showing that happening is true, it was a little different because Bernstein met up with Meyers to go to Segretti’s apartment.
But, the movie is correct in the information they got about Segretti. By that, what I mean is that Segretti was, as the movie briefly mentions, part of the “USC Mafia.” Basically, they were a group of friends who graduated from USC — the University of Southern California. Donald Segretti was one of them. A couple others were Ron Ziegler, Tim Elbourne, and Dwight Chapin.
What’s interesting about these new names was that Ziegler was President Nixon’s press secretary. Elbourne was his assistant and Chapin was the presidential appointments secretary.
As the investigation continued, it became clear that while they were at USC, they were a part of a political group of students called Trojans for Representative Government. The Trojans being the mascot for USC, by the way.
As a part of this group, the “USC Mafia” stuffed ballot boxes with fake votes, sent out propaganda around the campus and installed spies in their opponents’ campaigns. Not much of it was above board.
This specific style of election-rigging is something they dubbed ‘ratfucking.’ I know, this is a family show, so I had to bleep that out — but that’s what they called it. With their involvement in the Nixon campaign, the Post reporters couldn’t help but wonder if they’d taken this style of political espionage and propaganda to the President of the United States. It was a sickening thought.
To add to that, another major name came up in the investigation into Segretti. You see, after graduating from USC, the three men who we learned earlier were a part of Nixon’s campaign, Ziegler, Elbourne, and Chapin, had gotten jobs at the same advertising agency in Los Angeles. That agency’s vice president was a man named Harry Robbins Haldeman — H.R. Haldeman.
That was a bombshell to the investigation, because at the time of the Post’s investigation into this, Haldeman was none other than the White House Chief of Staff to President Nixon himself. Could he be the fifth man in charge of the secret fund for CRP?
Going back to the movie, we see Robert Redford’s version of Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman’s Carl Bernstein decide to see if they can verify their suspicions. They go back to Hugh Sloan to see if he knows anything about Haldeman being involved.
They try calling Sloan, but he doesn’t answer. Over some fast food burgers, you can clearly see are marked with the golden arches, Bernstein tells Woodward we can’t run the story about Haldeman’s involvement if Sloan doesn’t verify it. And we can’t go over to his house to talk to him because he’s not home.
Woodward says, well, he’s not answering the phone but that doesn’t mean he’s not there.
In the next scene, we can see Stephen Collins’ version of Hugh Sloan is home. The reporters show up and tell him that they’ve already written the story. They just need a few things confirmed before it’s published. Stepping inside, they tell Sloan that five men had control of the secret fund that financed the Watergate break-in.
Bernstein names them off: Mitchell, Stans, Magruder, Kalmbech … and then they tell Sloan that they have confirmations on those four. They just found out Haldeman’s the fifth, can he confirm that?
You can tell by Sloan’s response that he doesn’t want to be involved with that. The conversation in the movie isn’t exactly like this, but it goes something like:
“I’m not your source on that,” he tells the reporters.
“You don’t have to be the source, we just need you to confirm it.”
Then, continuing, “Well, when you were questioned by the grand jury, you had to name names.”
“Of course,” replies Sloan.
A bit frustrated that he won’t name names now, Woodward says, “Well, if we were to write a story naming Haldeman as the fifth man controlling the fund, would we be wrong?”
After a pause, Sloan says, “Let me put it this way … I would have no problems with that story.”
Was that the confirmation they needed? Sounds like it!
The reporters rush off.
A little while later, we see Sloan on TV. He denied naming Haldeman. We can see his attorney on screen talking to the reporters saying that Mr. Sloan did not implicate Mr. Haldeman in his testimony to the grand jury.
This is a punch to the gut for the reporters, who were certain Haldeman was the fifth man.
All of that is true. Well, the specifics were made up of course, as they are for any movie. But the gist is pretty accurate.
Now, up until this point you’ll notice that the four men Bernstein named in the movie included a few more names we haven’t talked about in this episode yet. Specifically, Magruder and Kalmbech. As you can probably imagine, there’s just too much information to expect to be able to cover it all in a single podcast episode. So, if you want to learn more about all of this, I would really recommend picking up Woodward and Bernstein’s book that the movie’s based on.
As a quick overview, though, we already learned about CRP’s chairman, John Mitchell, and CRP’s finance chairman, Maurice Stans. Jeb Magruder was John Mitchell’s deputy at CRP, and Herbert Kalmbach was President Nixon’s personal attorney.
So, the reporters figured out those four men had control of the fund. As the movie correctly shows, they were trying to name the White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman as the fifth.
The movie is also correct in showing that Sloan had said he’d have “no problem” with the article stating Haldeman as the fifth, but then afterward he denied implicating Haldeman.
As you can probably imagine, Woodward and Bernstein wanted to talk to Sloan to find out what went wrong.
As Sloan explained to them, he didn’t have an issue with the story. His issue, and the purpose behind his public denial, had to do with the story the Post published. You see, they had incorrectly stated that Sloan had mentioned Haldeman’s name to the grand jury. He hadn’t done that. He would have if they asked, but they didn’t ask.
So, it wasn’t that they were wrong about Haldeman, but it still meant they had given the upper hand to the White House. Publicly, the White House was launching their own retaliatory campaign against the Post for naming Haldeman. With Sloan’s public denials, it looked like Haldeman was innocent, and the Post was out for the blood of an innocent man.
And you can bet they pushed that story.
Oh, and remember that scene where we see Bernstein trying to get someone from the Justice Department to confirm Haldeman? Like Sloan, he refuses to name names. So, Bernstein says something like, “Tell you what. I’ll count up to ten. If we shouldn’t run the story, hang up before I get to ten. If it’s alright, be on the phone after I get to ten.”
After counting to ten, the guy was still on the line.
Confirmation, right? Well, that’s how they took it. But, as it turned out, in truth the guy on the other end misunderstood what Bernstein said. He thought he was supposed to hang on instead of hang up. So, he thought the exact opposite — he was trying to tell the Post not to run the story.
Meanwhile, if we hop back into the movie, Woodward again meets with Deep Throat. He warns Woodward that thanks to their mistakes, Haldeman is onto them. They shot too high and missed, and now they might’ve messed up the entire thing.
Robert Redford’s version of Woodward is fed up. He’s tired of these games and dancing around the bush. Just tell me what you know!
After a pause, Deep Throat tells him that the entire operation was run by Haldeman. They were right. But Watergate was just the tip of the iceberg. The reason they’re covering things up doesn’t really have as much to do with the Watergate break-in, as much as it does to protect all their covert operations.
It’s only here that, in the movie, we find out about Sloan’s mention of how the grand jury never asked him about Haldeman. We find that out as Bernstein and Woodward meet up to compare notes — through the use of a typewriter and some loud classical music playing in the background thanks to Woodward’s newfound paranoia of the room being bugged.
That’s all true.
Rachimaninoff was the music they played in the background as the real Woodward and Bernstein talked to each other silently through the use of a typewriter.
Tipped off by Deep Throat that they might be under surveillance now, Woodward warned Bernstein through typewritten notes that their lives might be in danger. Everyone’s might be. It’s the CIA.
Then, Woodward continued typing … it was a more detailed version of pretty much what the movie shows.
Watergate wasn’t the primary concern for the cover-up. They wanted to protect their covert operations. The names of people involved went straight to the top: Haldeman, Mitchell, White House Counsel John Dean, and even President Nixon himself.
In the movie, we see the two reporters show up at Post editor Ben Bradlee’s house late at night.
And that happened. It was past 2:00 AM by the time Woodward and Bernstein got to Bradlee’s home after their revelations to each other on the typewriter. It was the first time either of them had ever been to Bradlee’s home.
Just like the movie showed, Bradlee invited the two inside but Woodward and Bernstein, still paranoid about bugging, decided to have their conversation outside. It was there that the two unloaded what they knew.
They left at about 4:00 AM.
The next morning in the Post office, the men met with others who had been involved in the investigation for the paper — Harry Rosenfeld and Howard Simons among them. They passed around memos suggesting that they don’t talk about what they know in the office. It might be bugged.
Instead, the men decided to have a meeting upstairs on the roof of the building. That’s where the story was laid out.
Back in the movie, everything comes to a very quick end. After talking to Bradlee on his front lawn, we see Woodward and Bernstein typing up the story. In the foreground of the Post’s newsroom, we can see on the TV that President Nixon is taking the oath of office for his second inauguration.
Then, the scene of Woodward and Bernstein typing away fades into typewriters … sort of like what we saw in the beginning of the movie.
It’s in this way that we see the final bit of text on screen from the movie. These go quick, and realistically each bit of information we see the typewriter typing could be an entire podcast episode of its own. So, again, I’ll mention if you want to learn more about this I’d recommend a great place to start is Woodward and Bernstein’s book also called All the President’s Men.
But, for our purposes today, let’s go through these final typewritten scenes and see how accurate they are.
Oh! Before we do that, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the timeline here. The movie never mentions the date of the second inauguration we see happening on TV, but we know from history that happened on January 20th, 1973.
According to the text we see typing out, there’s a Post article dated January 11th, 1973. It says that Hunt pleads guilty to three counts of conspiracy and burglary.
That timeline is true. Even though Nixon was elected to his second term on November 7th, 1972, he was inaugurated after Howard Hunt pleaded guilty. Although, the movie mentions three counts of conspiracy and burglary. In truth, Hunt had eight charges against him. However, the government dropped five charges against Hunt if he agreed to cooperate with the case. So, the only charges brought against him were the three: conspiracy, burglary, and eavesdropping.
As a quick side note, before any of this Watergate scandal took place, Howard Hunt was one of three men photographed by reporters in Dallas soon after President Kennedy’s assassination. For that reason, he’s one of the men that many conspiracy theories include as a reason why the CIA might’ve been involved in Kennedy’s assassination. Of course, that was never proven, though.
Everette Howard Hunt would end up serving 33 months in prison for his involvement in Watergate.
Back in the movie’s typed-out ending, we can see the typewriter typing out the date of August 17th, 1973. Magruder pleads guilty to helping plan Watergate.
That’s true, too. Well, it happened on August 16th, but the papers reported on August 17th. But, I think we can give the movie a bit of a pass there. Papers usually reported the previous day’s news. It wasn’t the era of instant news like we’re used to today.
But, it was on August 16th that Jeb Magruder entered his plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and eavesdrop on the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate hotel in Washington DC.
Oh, and as a little bit of a side note, the movie doesn’t mention this at all, but before this happened, another man entered his guilty plea. That would be a name we haven’t talked about yet, Frederic LaRue. He was John Mitchell’s assistant at CRP, and he entered his guilty plea on June 27th. Interestingly, even though we learned Hunt changed his plea to guilty in January of 1973 in exchange for the government dropping some of the charges, many sources say that it was LaRue who was the first to plead guilty during the Watergate trial when he did in June of the same year.
LaRue served four and a half months — but not in prison. He served his time in custody at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
As for Jeb Magruder, for his involvement, he served seven months in a federal prison. Interestingly, after prison he quit politics and went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary and went to work as a Presbyterian minister.
Cutting back to the movie, and we see the typewriter types out the date of November 5th, 1973 and says Segretti is sentenced to six months in prison.
Although the movie doesn’t mention that Segretti’s sentencing had nothing to do with Watergate. Instead, he was sentenced for disrupting the Democratic Presidential primary in Florida in 1972. Segretti served four months and 20 days of his six-month sentence in a Federal minimum-security prison before being released.
Another cut in the movie; another date. February 26th, 1974. Kalmbach pleads guilty to illegal White House fund—the movie cuts to the next typewritten scene before we can see anymore.
This is true, too, although it’s another instance where the news was reported the day after. It was on February 25th that President Nixon’s personal attorney, Herbert Kalmbach, plead guilty to two charges. Neither were directly related to the Watergate burglary, though.
The first one was a felony, and that was for running an illegal Congressional campaign committee in 1970. The second charge was a misdemeanor, and that was for making a promise to an ambassador that he’d give a better assignment in exchange for a $100,000 campaign contribution.
For his first charge, Kalmbach was sentenced to six to 18 months in prison. For his second, he was sentenced to six months. He served his time for both concurrently and was released 10 months and 11 days later. He also was stripped of his license to practice law, although he got that back a couple years after being released from prison.
As the typewriter continues typing in the movie, this time the date says April 6th, 1974. Chapin guilty of lying to the grand jury.
Again, the movie is correct.
For lying to the grand jury, Dwight Chapin was convicted of perjury and served nine months in a Federal prison. After being released, it came to light that Chapin was making almost $1,000 a week while he was in prison from a contract with a company called W. Clement Stone Enterprises.
That’s the equivalent of about $5,000 a week today.
Chapin went to work for W. Clement Stone Enterprises after being released, and even rejoined politics as he worked for President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush’s election campaigns.
Back in the movie, the typewriter continues. April 12th, 1974. Porter gets 30 days in jail for lying to the FBI.
That’s half true. Although, to be fair, it’s a little different than the previous statements we’ve seen the movie makes. By that, what I mean is that the movie doesn’t mention April 12th as being the date Porter makes his guilty plea, only that that’s the date it’s published he’s getting time for lying to the FBI.
It was about a month before that, in March of 1974 when Herbert Porter plead guilty to lying to the FBI.
Hopping back to the movie’s final bits of text, the typewriter continues with the date May 17th, 1974. Former Attorney General Kleindienst enters a guilty plea.
Again, that’s true, and it’s another example of the date being the one after the event itself.
The movie doesn’t really talk about what he’s pleading guilty to, though.
He’s another name we haven’t talked about in this episode yet — one of many that we don’t have time to dive into, quite honestly — but Attorney General Richard Kleindienst was sworn into office as an Attorney General on June 12th, just five days before the Watergate break-in.
On May 16th, 1974, Kleindienst plead guilty of refusing to accurately testify before the Senate. That was a misdemeanor, and he was given a 30-day suspended sentence and fined $100. He returned to private practice of law after the trial, something he’d done for years before being invited to a role in government by Nixon in the late 1960s.
Going back to the movie’s onslaught of typewritten details, the typewriter continues with another bit of info. This time it’s dated June 4th, 1974. Colson pleads guilty to a felony, admitting to obstruction of justice.
This is also true, although it happened the day before — June 3rd. If you recall, Charles Colson, who most people called Chuck, was Special Counsel to President Nixon. Chuck wasn’t his only nickname though. Many people referred to him as Nixon’s “hatchet man.”
Colson’s guilty plea was a single felony, one count of obstruction of justice.
On June 21st, 1974, Colson was given a one-to-three-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. He ended up serving seven months in prison.
The typewriter continues with more dates and information in the movie. The next one jumps ahead quite a bit to March 13th, 1975. The brief bit of information we get is that Stans admits to charges involving illegal fundraising.
Again, we have an instance of it happening the day before, but the basic gist here is true. Although, the movie’s text here saying that its charges involving illegal fundraising is pretty vague.
There were five counts Maurice Stans pleaded guilty to on March 12th, 1975. There were two counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions and three counts of violating the reporting sections of the Federal Election Campaign Act. If you remember from earlier, that’s the one we learned about that Nixon signed into law in 1972.
In all, Stans helped raise about $60 million in funds for Nixon’s re-election campaign. Through it all, Stans always insisted he never knew anything about the crimes at the Watergate. And, for what it’s worth, it’s never been proven that he did.
Going back to the movie now, the typewritten scenes start flipping the timeline around a little bit in order to build the suspense. If you recall, the last one about Stans was from March 13th, 1975. This next one is dated January 2nd, 1975. It says that Mitchell, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman are guilty on all counts.
That’s true, but again the movie doesn’t mention what the counts were.
On New Year’s Day, 1975, John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were all found guilty on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury.
Ehrlichman is another name we haven’t talked about in this episode, but he was the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs for Nixon.
Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman’s convictions brought them sentences between two-and-a-half to eight years in prison. That was later commuted in 1977 to a sentence of one-to-four years.
Ehrlichman served 18 months.
Mitchell served 19 months.
Haldeman served 18 months.
More typewritten text. And again, the movie flips the timeline of these a bit because the last couple were in 1975 but this next bit is dated August 6th, 1974. It says that tapes show Nixon approved the cover-up, but that he said he won’t resign.
That’s true, but as you can guess there’s more to the story.
On July 24th, 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled to force President Nixon’s release of a recording that had captured conversations in the White House. Then, on August 5th, Nixon released the tapes. There were a series of tapes released, but one of them would go on to be called “the smoking gun” tape because, after its release, 11 of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who had voted against impeachment decided to change their votes.
To put this into context, the focus of the so-called “smoking gun” tape was a conversation that happened just six days after the Watergate break-in on June 23rd, 1972. The conversation was about an hour long, starting around 10:04 AM, between President Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman.
Here’s a short segment of that conversation…this is the “smoking gun” tape:
You’ll notice toward the end there’s a moment where the audio goes silent…that’s not the infamous 18 ½ minute gap of audio you might’ve heard about from the Nixon tapes. That gap, which many still think was erased on purpose, was from a conversation that took place on June 20th, three days before the audio you just heard. Some people think that if we knew what was in that 18 ½ minute gap, perhaps THAT would be the “smoking gun” tape…but I guess we’ll never know.
There were multiple tapes, as I mentioned before, but that conversation you just heard was enough to change the public opinion of President Nixon.
Going back to the movie, the final bit of text from the typewriter types out. August 9th, 1974. Nixon resigns. Gerald Ford becomes the next President of the United States.
After the release of the smoking gun tape, it was only a matter of time before President Nixon would be impeached. On August 7th, President Nixon made the decision to resign. Then, on August 8th, 1974, President Nixon addressed the nation in a live broadcast where he announced that, for the first time in the history of the United States, the President would resign from office.
That led to another first as Gerald Ford became the first person in U.S. history to ever rise to both Vice President and President without being elected to either office.
Overall, when security guard Frank Wills found that taped door in the early morning hours of June 17th, 1972 so started what would end up being one of the biggest political scandals in United States history.
As the saying goes, “the buck stops here” — referring to the burden of responsibility lying with the boss. For the United States, that means ultimately the responsibility lies in the Oval Office. In fact, President Nixon said exactly that before he resigned. Maybe not in so many words, but in a speech to the American people on April 30th, 1973, President Nixon denied his involvement in the Watergate scandal, but still took responsibility for it since he was the President.
And yet, he was one of the first to be let off the hook for it.
After becoming the first U.S. president to resign from office, his successor, President Gerald Ford, issued a full and unconditional pardon to Nixon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while he was president. That happened on September 8th, 1974, only about a month after Nixon resigned.
On the other end of that spectrum was another name we haven’t really talked about but was one of the major players in the whole scandal — a man named G. Gordon Liddy. For his involvement, Liddy was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He became the last person doing time for the scandal to be released. Of his 20-year sentence, he served four and a half years.